If the purpose of protest is to move the needle of public opinion on a particular issue, the Black Lives Matter movement can be considered a success so far, according to a new Washington Post poll. If the poll’s numbers are accurate, many more Americans are concerned about black rights than were a year ago, before Ferguson.
A Pew poll from last year found that 46 percent of Americans believed that the country needed to continue making changes to ensure that blacks and whites have equal rights. After a year of demonstrations in the streets and on the news, a majority have taken up that stance: the Post found that 60 percent of Americans now affirm that the fight for equal rights is not over. Even white people are changing their minds: the Post poll found that 53 of whites believe changes still need to be made, versus just 39 percent in 2014.
If it’s not self-evident that those 60 percent of Americans are correct, look at Troy Middlebrooks, an Alabama cop who continues to patrol despite having been recorded talking about killing a man he allegedly referred to as a “nigger”; or the McKinney, Texas, cop who pulled a gun on a group of kids at a pool party; or the widespread and explicit discrimination against black people the Department of Justice found in Ferguson; or the fact that black men are six times as likely to go to jail as white men.
Those who argue that forceful demonstrations only serve to entrench people in the positions they’ve already taken are wrong. People are changing their minds. Just like it did for the suffrage movement 100 years ago or civil rights in the ‘60s, public protest is working in 2015. Now all we need is some meaningful policy change.